The paradigm shift of the 21st century branch manager (1)
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” -HE Luccock
Dear Readers, from this week, I will be starting a series on some of the functions of branch managers and how they can be performed seamlessly with minimum risk, considering the evolving nature of banking in this twenty first century. Dear Managers, I hope you have managed to achieve if not all, some of your 2017 New Year Resolutions. As we have entered the second half of the year, did your resolutions include moving away from some old habits? If yes, it means you are now flowing with the tide and not against it. In effect you are managing the paradigm shift in banking.
What is a paradigm shift?
The paradigm shift in banking
Economic fluctuations, emerging tech trends, data accessibility and drastic generational shifts have tremendously changed the customers’ behaviour, including customers of banks and financial institutions. Today, some clients interact with a bank via mobile channel several times per month, while interactions via branch occur only a few times a year. Modern customers demand convenient and personalized banking services with a high level of safety, security and digital acceleration.
Even though digital transformation is challenging the very way banks operate, it also offers a significant opportunity for banks in the future. Many banks are now striving to offer dynamic customer experiences and meet customers where they want to be met providing them with the banking services across various channels
Who is a branch manager?
Investopedia describes a branch manager as: “A branch manager is responsible for all of the functions of a branch location, such as hiring employees, overseeing the approval of loans and lines of credit, marketing, building a rapport with the community to attract business and assisting with customer relations”.
Wikipedia’s definition is “A branch manager is an executive who oversees a division or office of a large business or organization, operating locally or with a particular function”.
What does a Branch Manager do?
When an organization has more than one office, the other offices are commonly referred to as branches. So being a branch manager means being the supervisor for one of those offices. Although this job can be in any industry, the title of "branch manager" commonly refers to someone who works at a bank or other financial institution, such as an investment firm or trading house.
Regardless of the industry, though, the job responsibilities for branch managers are similar. The order is to make sure the branch runs smoothly. That's no easy task, because you have been chosen by management to do just that, with minimum complaints, errors, misunderstandings and negativity. In effect you are the RISK MANAGER and the CEO of your branch. Hey, don’t get carried away because they say you are the CEO! When they say that, you will smile and sometimes get carried away with the usual accolades of “Manager, Manager One, Chairman, Boss, Oga, Chief,” etc.
In our part of the world, the branch manager’s functions are rather complex because the old ways of doing certain things cannot be immediately thrown away since a large number of the population is still illiterate. There is the need therefore to blend some aspects of the eighteenth century banking methods with the twenty first century ones. The most important thing is keeping the customers happy….happy enough to want them come back for more and in fact become your advocates, whether you are using traditional vouchers or doing paperless banking….their balances should be accurate, and the services should also be on point.
The Three Basic Skills of a Manager.
As a manager, there are three basic skills that one should have:
TECHNICAL SKILL: This is the ability to work with available resources in a particular area of expertise. As a manager, you may find yourself posted to a remote part of the country where the nature of the environment demands only about five employees instead of the city branch where you came from which has twenty five employees. Don’t say “Hey…I am in trouble”. Prove that you can also add value by showing your multi-tasking skills to make the place function.
HUMAN OR PEOPLE SKILL: This denotes the ability to work in a team; motivating, leading and guiding the staff in a branch situation…. Don’t say “Some of the people are complex… they don’t seem to understand anything”
CONCEPTUAL SKILL: The ability to see the bank as a whole and recognize how the various departments interact and relate to each other…….Don’t say “As for Head Office they just sit there and give instructions”. Knowledge of the relationship between banking and the external environment
The 21st Century Branch Manager’s Role
Let us examine the role of the Branch manager of today. The present day branch managers are no longer the stereotype of a lofty, illusive boss behind a closed door. The image of the bank manager is changing. They now need to be dynamic leaders with great communication and motivational skills.
- Activities performed by the manager as a representative of the bank and as required by law and social necessity. Someone has to be placed there to represent management. So think like one.
- Selling goals, guiding and motivating the staff, giving direction and encouraging the staff to perform well and better. You may have come from supervising operations staff, customer service or a sales role. Now you are the leader and accountable to them. At whatever age you are, your staff look up to you so grow up mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
- Development and maintenance of contacts with persons and organizations in the external environment. In the Regions of the country, you have to know what to say, when and how. Don’t just open your mouth and say anything ….Ensure regular communication flow in the branch and head office – lateral, vertical (top-down and down-top). Be professional.
- Collecting information on what is happening, identifying problems and opportunities and building knowledge about external and internal environment and taking corrective actions. Hey… you are now a strategic person and should think outside the box and ensure recommendations to head office are backed by facts.
- Exchanging data and information with people inside and outside the branch.
- Transmitting bank’s policies and programs to the staff. Sometimes some head office circulars are grey and ambiguous. If you don’t understand them, seek clarification and imbibe it before communicating to your team members. Discuss in one of the morning meetings and seek their response and acceptance……shows you are a good teamplayer.
- Performing certain activities on behalf of the unit and lobbying for its cause.. Let your lobbying become a non-emotional one but one with facts and figures. If you are “bounced” by head office, seek the reasons why and try again being very polite and “politically correct”.
- Recommend changes in the unit where possible taking into account of the special nature of your environment and the need for standardization. Recommend the exploitation of new markets and to take steps to improve its and performance. There is a need for you to create strategies to grow business opportunities.
- Handling disturbance or interruptions in the smooth working of the It also covers maintenance of customer satisfaction and staff morale…Don’t say “As for me I am not their father or mother.. I am here for business. Let them fight among themselves. I will report them to Head Office…You are the Head Office rep…Face the music and seek assistance from peers and subordinates. Unless it is a fraud or risk issue, try to learn how to manage your internal branch politics.
- Mobilizing physical, human and other resources required for effective performance. Are you optimizing the use of the various resource. Identify unique skills of staff that can be incorporated into the branch service delivery. eg. Staff with selling skills, listening skills, accuracy and numeracy skills.
MENTOR AND MOTIVATOR
- Motivating staff constitute the essential and inescapable tasks of all managers. Train, mentor and guide branch banking staff to function effectively. Don’t keep the rich experience to yourself. Share and train them. Don’t regard them as competitors.
Dear manager, do you go home feeling drained physically, emotionally? Are you a manager or a “Damager’? Don’t worry. Don’t feel that head office is not listening to you for the demands for help. Find time to do a self-audit and you may find that there are certain things you can do to make your branch stand out special among the pack.
Next week, we shall continue the journey of the 21st century bank manager in a paradigm shift.
TO BE CONTINUED
Do you want better service from your branch staff? Please buy them copies of my books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller,” and “My Front Desk Experience – A Young Banker’s Story”. Check out from the offices of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, the National Banking College in Accra. Call the hotline-0244333051 for special packages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.